Nearing ninety, my father the optimist kneels in a furrow and
reaches to wrest
weeds from his last patch of garden. Freshly re-wed and ready for his
new life, he tells the collards,
"Those liberal professors mined my son," an axe he's
ground for thirty years.
A nuthatch ceases hammering nearby to listen, and the window's open
allow me to eavesdrop as he rants at the vetch and crabgrass, his happy
half what keeps him going. Stems and tendrils, the greedy weeds and
his lifelong enemies, and men like me in thrall to books and words.
Furious, he wrestles
along a furrow, wrenches the offending stalks, and I remember the blind
tuner Joe Merrick
who led my hands inside the upright Baldwin. His tool for turning the
strings to sharper
tones was called a wrest
, a word I later learned the Saxons fashioned. "It's
he whispered, "in the fingers and wrists, like a farmer picking a
and these days, when I open my ledger to write, I always think wrest
and know it was not college where I learned to work words, twist
the nouns and verbs from their sockets and sow them to my own design.
Outside--turning toward autumn harvest--my father's still preaching
of manual labor to anyone willing to heed his harangue. Then at the
steel sink to rinse
his rusty knuckles and wrists, he says only the body's work earns a
though from his furious and robust tone, he seems more happy with wrath,
a pleasure not beyond my grasp, also Saxon and surely as the russet
sunset, a far cry from the worst.